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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Opinion: When you run, just run, don’t think about running form

Not surprisingly, a recently published study in Journal of Sports Science found that consciously focusing on running movement while running makes them less efficient.

other-sports Updated: Nov 10, 2018 15:28 IST
Rajat Chauhan
Rajat Chauhan
Delhi
Image for representational purposes only
Image for representational purposes only(picture alliance via Getty Image)
         

For last decade or two there has been a lot of talk in running circles about what your running form should be like.

Being told to think about ‘running form’ is like telling someone to ‘relax’. They end up tensing the whole body and stressing out like never before. That’s exactly what I experience when I get a patient with back or knee pain. They stiffen up and restrict the body from moving freely.

I must admit that for a while I was also advising my patients and running wards to focus on their running form, their posture, where their shoulders were supposed to be and how their feet should be landing. Luckily for me, more so for them, I very soon realised that when you think of such things while trying to run, I’m not sure how far would they get without tripping over. Also, the whole fun of running goes out of the window.

The eureka bulb went on for me when I was running around Lutyen’s Delhi and noticed an elephant pass me. It was trotting along happily. As an elephant should be, it was heavier than most other animals you would ever see. It was landing on its heel. Something that’s been said to be the biggest sin when talking about running form. And it was faster than most runners that fine Sunday morning. I was in awe of the happy elephant. I had stopped to do a video in slow motion. Each step of the elephant was soft, very gentle. It was effortless. The elephant didn’t have a coach for running or did it see any youtube videos on running. It was doing something that came naturally to it, since birth. Luckily for him or her, there was no chair to play a spoil sport.

This experience made me go back to videos of all kinds of animals in the wild running, from very slow to very fast. Irrespective of their sizes, they were floating, barely touching the ground, almost as if they wanted to gently kiss the ground each time and not smooch.

It also reminded of me videoing my younger son a decade back after I had come by with my experiment of running long distances like 30+ kms in leather sandals that weren’t made for running by a company that in case is not in running shoe business. My son Viren was barely couple of years old then and like any child that age, totally loved running. Interestingly for me, he was happily landing on his heel, but softly. And he was flat footed too. Something that has got lot of bad publicity even in very respected institutions over ages. Viren wasn’t taught how to run, he just did what he loved doing, what came naturally to him. What comes naturally to all of us. But unfortunately, as we all grow up, we lose touch with where we come from. We forget how to move.

Not surprisingly, a recently published study in Journal of Sports Science found that consciously focusing on running movement while running makes them less efficient. Linda Schucker, the author of the study, found that focusing on breathing while running reduces the running economy even further.

What do you then do to get back to running the way you did when you were a child? You need to get those muscles activated that have gone sleeping courtesy sitting on that dreaded chair for ever.

Start doing hobbit toes (toe-curls) with your feet, crumbling a newspaper with your barefoot on the ground. Do 15-20 repetitions in one go and do it 3-4 times a day. Add heel raises, pelvic tilts, pendulum hip movement and long breaths for same numbers as toe-curls throughout the day. And definitely start skipping. That’ll be a good start.

But when you go out to walk or run, you need to do it because you love it, or you have the desire to. Don’t force it. Don’t think too much about it. Just do it. Like that elephant in Lutyen’s Delhi, like Viren, or like your own self as a child.

First Published: Nov 10, 2018 15:28 IST

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